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Inspiratum Experientia – A truly inspired experience!

posted by FitnessFirst Team April 1, 2017 0 comments

Over The Top – Bear’s Boot Camp 2017

This year for Fitness First’s annual “pilgrimage”, there was some unfinished business for the troops. It was time to complete our Team Building activity in the mountains. Rewind 12 months to February 2016 when our very own National Sports and Events Manager, Gary Melhuish, aka Sergeant Major Bear Thrills attempted to lead over 100 troops split into 8 platoons when tragically we were stopped in our tracks when a soldier fell behind. A serious injury sustained in battle meant that the entire army was forced back to base, meaning we never even entered “Behind Enemy Lines”.

Bears Bootcamp 2017 - GaryM

Sergeant Major Bear Thrills was determined to get his troops “Over The Top” and my word did he deliver!

So, back to the present day, February 2017. Sergeant Major Bear Thrills was determined to get his troops “Over The Top” and my word did he deliver! “Bear’s Boot Camp” typically lasts a day and a half (although it feels a lot longer by the time you’re finished). However, in order to be confident of completing our mission, Gary started the event a little earlier… November 1st 2016! Using the tools we already have within our business, Gary created a challenge that was two fold. Firstly, to qualify for the event, every person had to achieve a set number of MYZONE Effort Points (MEPs). Secondly, each individual had to complete the Driathlon Challenge, that Gary himself created in 2015 as a means to engage staff and members in a rewarding, gym based triathlon.

Race to the top

Also, for the very first time, Bear’s Boot Camp was opened up to our Head of Departments. Typically, the event is targeted towards our Head Office based staff and Club General Managers, however, in order to engage a larger group of people, the decision was made to cast the net a little wider. In November 2016, the MEPs target was 1000, with the Super Sprint Driathlon distance needing to be complete. This involves rowing 1000 meters, cycling 5kms and running 1km in the gym, in the quickest possible time, with only 1 minute rest in-between each discipline. In December 2016, the MEPs target was increased to 1500, with the Sprint Driathlon distance of; 2000 meters row, 10kms cycle and 2kms run being completed by the troops.

Tired just reading? It gets better….

In January 2017, the final push, the final month of troops digging deep within themselves to find that last ounces of strength, that last piece of determination. The MEPs target was 2000 and the distance on the Driathlon was the Olympic! 3000 meters rowing, 15kms cycling and 3kms running. Each month troops dropped out, some not completing the required number of MEPs and some not completing the Driathlon Challenge quick enough. What did all this mean? It meant we had a crack squad of 60 people, split into 6 platoons to go “Over The Top” and complete our mission that was cut short this time last year!

And wow, did we smash it!!

The Race to the Top…

With each platoon setting off in 10 minute intervals, starting at 07:00 hours, the first 1.6kms was a straight race to the starting GPS marker. From here, the platoons would have to crack codes, answer questions, and go deep into the mountains to find hidden clues that would point them in the right direction to the finish line. They would have to navigate their way to 10 GPS markers in total, using their compass and GPS watches to help them around the mountains.

Race to the top

With each platoon setting off in 10 minute intervals, starting at 07:00 hours, the first 1.6kms was a straight race to the starting GPS marker.

There was blood, sweat and I’m pretty certain tears shed in this gruelling 10km mountainous race. A race that the 3rd platoon finished in the quickest time. An impressive 2 hours and 23 minutes. However, this wasn’t the end of their ordeal….

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The Mini Olympics…

At 10:45 hours, as the final team crossed the finish line, we then took the troops to the Hatta Fort Hotel where the platoons were greeted by their “B team”, a further 6 troops whom had arrived at the hotel in the morning and competed in the “Mini Olympics”. This consisted of Archery, Volleyball and Tug of War!

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In the afternoon, (after a fantastic BBQ lunch) the troops completed a mental challenge called “Whistle Blower” created once again by the Sergeant Major. Platoon 4 proved that they were switched on even after a heavy lunch, by cracking the code in 15 minutes 11 seconds, a time that impressed everyone! After 30 minutes, the challenge was brought to an end and the troops would now compete against each other for one last time.

whistler blower

Lunch time

Lunch time!

The Fitness Challenge…

Taking place in some beautiful scenery, Sergeant Major Bear Thrills had (once again) created something to truly finish the troops off! And in some style! Three lanes, two heats, and 17 troops in each platoon! The atmosphere was electrifying, and the competitive nature of all our employees shone through in spades. With tactical decisions made, splitting their platoon into a “B group” and “C group”, with one person designated as “A” (the cardio expert), it was time to compete.

Fitness Challenge

Sergeant Major Bear Thrills had (once again) created something to truly finish the troops off!

In descending repetitions, “B group” had to complete burpees and hand release press ups. In between these exercises, “C group” had to smash out some overhead shoulder presses and some Bulgarian bag step ups. The cardio expert “A” was tasked with rowing up to 1000 meters, cycling up to 2kms and then running up to 20 lengths of the 40 meter course.

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All of this excitement made for an amazing spectacle, an extremely competitive environment, and a truly epic finale to quite possibly the best “Bear’s Boot Camp” to date. In the evening, it was off to the camp site, sit down to relax with dinner and share our stories around the camp fire. The perfect way to end such an event.

Run to the finish line

Inspiratum Experientia

Nothing builds a team’s morale and spirit like such an adventure and Gary Melhuish, our Sergeant Major Bear Thrills exceeds all expectations every year with these events!

Sam Jackson

Sergeant Major, we salute you!

Sam Jackson
Sports and Events Manager

Our Team

Rome was not built in a day

posted by FitnessFirst Team February 11, 2017 0 comments

An inspiring story and testimonial by one of our head office employees who surprised his team by completing the 42 km Dubai Marathon 2017!

I think that everything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and put the work and time in to it

Michael Phelps

First of all, I would like to thank God for putting me among such a group of amazing people where I receive endless motivation, inspiration and most importantly the push to go further at all times.

About a year and a half ago, when I used to reach Fitness First Burjuman club early morning by 6:00 am to learn swimming, it was the above quote I read at first before dipping in to the warm pool water and yes it’s 100 percent true because myself who never knew how to float in water now is capable of doing freestyle swimming in sea and that is my first achievement in fitness.

Also thanks to Lisa Hancox’s swimming classes at Fitness First Al Manzil which pushed me and gave me the passion to learn swimming. It was Mr. Syed Adnan who pushed me to attend the swimming classes and never thought that the push and motivation would make him come and support me at the 1 km swimming race held at Sheraton Beach Resort at Dubai Marina on 8th Oct 2016. It gives me immense pleasure and pride when management takes the time to come to us to appreciate our achievements.

To add Mr. Susheel Agal has never held himself back from urging and pushing his team to participate in fitness activities. Since he was very well aware about my back pain, he always advised me to go further in swimming.

I need to take this opportunity to thank all swimming Instructors in the Fitness First Swimming Academy, who have helped me and taught me how to swim especially Mr. Dinesh Rodrigo, Mr. Sunil, Mr. Nikko and Mr. AJ for taking me to Roy’s Beach to help me swim and gain confidence in the sea and is still being continued whenever we have time to go there.

I used to run for about 15 to 18 km a year ago and my last run was 18 km. But due to lower back pain, I had to mainly focus on swimming.

I registered for the Dubai Marathon on 24th December 2016 and planned my activities and set my targets to be achieved on a weekly basis. I had to balance work as well so I decided to make long runs on weekends and short runs during week days. Waking up at early morning at 5 am was not a big thing as I was already used to but I needed to make sure of going to bed early as well.

I targeted to hit 15 km in the first week, 25 km in the second week, 35 km in the 3rd week, indeed, I hit 12 km in the first week, 23 km in the second week and 29 km in the 3rd week and allowed time to rest and recover for the fourth week to be ready to run. I had to decrease my weight and increase consumption of more protein food as well.

It was a really good experience running the full Marathon as it tests your consistency and reaching your goal. It is all about your focused mind throughout. For me it was a meditation on my body posture and my pace and safety throughout until 36 to 39 km when my ankle muscles starting paining and I tended to slow down and even walk and also took little stretches. Having calculated this beforehand during my practice I had stocked some plasters to use if required and there were plenty of water stations at every 2 km which helped me from being dehydrated.

You can see many people sometimes even stopping around 10 to 15 km, but resumed and reached their goal with determination. It puts your determination to test.

I would suggest everyone should try this, for those who have no running experience should begin with 10 km. It is all about pushing yourself forward and going further. And it also involves giving up your tasty recipes, skipping planned movies with your friends, losing the comfort sleep in the early morning etc.. Of course I did not start with 10 km in the beginning. I started with 1.5 K in the beginning with Mr. Syed Adnan and later watching the half Marathons participation by Mr. Susheel Agal, Mr. Syed Adnan, Mr. Sandeep did motivate me to go for full Marathon.

It is the pushing yourself further that takes you to 42 km. Yes, as the saying goes “ Rome was not built in a day”, it takes time, effort and patience to reach this potential and a good and well planned practice and getting good advice from trainers will help you do it as well.

Watch the race footage


Binoy N.B.
Fitness First Middle East Head Office

Our Team

Let the race begin!

posted by FitnessFirst Team January 9, 2017 0 comments

Here it goes: nutrition – check, water bottles – check, swimming gear – check, race fuel – check, timing chip – check, bed time – check.  4am my alarm goes off and by 4:30am I’m driving to the beach…It’s dark, windy and unbelievably exciting. Any other circumstance would made me question my sanity but not on the race day! I get ready in T1, march nervously towards the swim start to stand shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of athletes from around the world that are about to battle the same distance across swim, bike and run disciplines to proudly wear the finisher T-shirt…

…before you put on the Finisher T-shirt, you’ve spent months preparing for the race, investing in your mental and physical health, made sacrifices around your work and personal lifestyle because you’ve made a choice. A choice that made you commit to yourself and your team, a choice that has victory at the end of the road and one, that only you can push through when the times get tough!

On January 27th 2017 we are going to witness 160 Fitness First staff changing into the ‘Finisher’ t-shirt & here is how: 2 years ago there were 3 Fitness First employees who signed up to race individually the half Ironman distance triathlon in Dubai…the following year we decided to invite some keen colleagues to join us which brought our numbers to a total of 60 at the Dubai International Triathlon….this year, 160 Fitness First staff, few of our members and key business partners are going to stand proudly at the IRONMAN 70.3 Dubai start line to use their strength, to face their fears and to live our brand. Over the years, we watched the passion grow within our teams which is now unstoppable with clubs supporting major sporting events, competing in international races and our presence across the field in the Middle East. That’s what counts. From the Executive Team to club teams, we live, breathe and just can’t get enough of our brand, what better place to be!

If you look at the team and individual split, not everyone is a pro but everyone is a hero! Some of us never thought a triathlon is something to get involved in, some have only learnt how to swim in the process, others never run more than 5 or 10km and some & for some, focus has always been weight training…. and yes,  there are also those that haven’t ridden a bike since they were kids! But, does it really matter and how do you involve such big numbers?  Simple, they all made a choice and they love what we do. Based on a simple shout out, in less than 2 weeks we exceeded our predicted numbers for participants and the interest kept going. With the support from Fitness First our teams are training hard and awaiting the arrival of their training kit. This amazing initiative would’ve not been possible if it wasn’t for our closest strategic partners contributing almost AED 100,000 in sponsorship, call this a team effort! We’ve created a huge buzz around the business successfully continuing to promote the sense of community through social media activations, never ending what’s app groups, high energy training sessions and have already been asked about the next event. No session is ever too late and no session is ever too early, participation strives! We support them, we help them but all the hard work, come from the individuals…all we did, is ignited the fire!

Key important component of success for any company are when staff is passionate about your product, about your brand, about your future. How powerful it is that 160 staff will be waving the Fitness First flag on the race day, a race that is recognised internationally in the age group and professional field …. The main part however comes way before the race day : it starts with commitments and a plan, then hours of training, strategy, aches and pains, learning the disciplines, early starts and late finished, nutrition changes and body transformations is what it takes to stand on that beach and wait for the whistle to blow.  It starts by not giving up. By then, you’ve earned it, you worked for it, and you are ready to face it. We are proud that our teams represent that.

For some of us, it is just another race, another t-shirt, another medal …. For others, it’s a challenge of a lifetime or a race they never dreamt of participating in. We are making it happen but our staff passion for fitness & movement made the recruitment easy! Truth to be told, you are never too old for the next medal…

Will the numbers grow year on year? Yes. Will we involve our members? Absolutely. Do we love what we do? No doubt.

See you all at the beach on January 27th 2017…. shoulder to shoulder let the race begin!

Kate Milewska
Group Central Operations and Customer Service Manager
Fitness First Middle East and North Africa


Race before the race - Behind the scenes of Ironman 70.3
Our Team

Race before the race – Behind the scenes of Ironman 70.3

posted by FitnessFirst Team March 28, 2016 0 comments

Whether you are an experienced athlete or a first timer, once you press the “Register” button on the IRONMAN website, your schedule, your energy, your world starts evolving around that exact date as you prepare for the race.

You train, you listen, you educate yourself, you push hard and learn new levels outside of your comfort zone. You count the days and make plans until the day where you drop off your machine at T1 & pack your bags for the next day stressing if you will get enough sleep and if the fuel plan you prepared is good enough….then you see the weather changing, the wind picking up and you wonder if your plan will become a reality. Before you turn up at 5am the next morning to complete the bike preparation and walk over to the swim start….someone’s already waiting for you…

Race before the race - Behind the scenes of Ironman 70.3

(Photography credits attributed to the owner)

That someone has also been preparing for months, formed plans and strategies & recruited the best people for the job to make sure, we are all ready for the race day. But our game is a race before the race. We must beat you to the start line, to the transition area, to the swim start and to the aid stations. We must be first on the ground with weeks of preparation, logistics and super team ready to make it happen!


For the first time since I started racing in triathlons just over a year ago, I had the pleasure to witness & be part of the team behind the scenes by joining RACE.ME & the IRONMAN team as one of the Team Leaders for the IM Dubai 70.3 race. Although I could only join the forces few days before the event where majority of the mega jobs were completed, the challenge, experience and team work that I experienced in that time was priceless. We are aware that it takes time and huge amount of work to pull such projects off but unless you are in the middle of organizing & coordinating 300+ volunteers for various Team Managers, setting up the aid stations where the athletes count on you to supply them with fuel and support, getting to site at 3 am and leaving almost 20 hours later holding tightly a “to do” list for the next day, it’s almost impossible to comprehend. I loved every moment of it for the people around me , for the precision in decision making, for the comradely around the base camp and for the challenge and learning’s that the whole experience brought me.

Your days are people intense filled with wins & setbacks, your hard work pays off or you turn up in the morning to find the site a bit less organized than you left it as you realize our close cousin “the 35 km/wind” decided to visit last night… But you race as hard as you can and you push as much as you can for when the athletes arrive , you are standing tall with a big smile, your white Team Leader shirt and a warm welcome wishing them a great day! What’s amazing about a local race is that all of your tri friends are there and they welcome you with hugs and thank you words knowing , that you made a difference to what’s about to come. The race kicks off, the tweets are flying, helicopters are up in the air, the pro athlete watch is on and we are on our stations, ready to shout the words of encouragement and continue with our secret operation behind the scenes.


Being in charge of some of the run course set up, it gave me a chance to really interact with everyone and I loved it. Everyone gives you a smile back and if energy lasts, even a high-5 or a cheeky joke. You run around the stations and they run around the course until the last person crosses the finish line….medals are issued, podium is waiting and the little army behind the scenes is on their way to clean up the tables, pick up the cones and reverse all the set up that made IRONMAN DUBAI 70.3 look and feel incredible. The evening brings congratulations which go both ways and then you know, we are all in this together…

From athletes to athletes.

#getinvolved #oneteam #newexperience

Kate Milewska
Group Central Operations and Customer Service Manager
Fitness First Middle East and North Africa

The one who took the extra Mile…




Our Team

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

posted by FitnessFirst Team November 24, 2015 4 Comments

An inside story on our company experience in the Dubai International Triathlon 2015


Months and months of training leading up to this event were the most exciting, challenging, stressful,   strenuous and I must say fun, where every team member gave his/her utmost best to train and get ready for this big event. Waking up at dawn most days of the week, giving up our weekend sleep-ins and Friday nights just to train, committing to a rigorous training plan and nutrition focused diet, meeting to train as a team in the early hours of the morning and saying the statement “No sorry, I have to train” was the attitude of the Fitness First athletes who decided to accept the challenge and participate in Dubai International Triathlon (DIT).

What better way to challenge our staff than to select this prestigious event with around 800 athletes joining from all over the world competing against us. The Dubai International Triathlon (DIT), with its second time round in Dubai, featured an exciting new venue and race course with a 1.9km swim, a 90km bike ride and a 21.1km run around Dubai International Endurance City.

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

The Start of the Story

A handpicked few of 50 employees by our COO, were challenged to participate in this triathlon coming from different departments with varying fitness levels. For some, they had already done it as pros and for others it was their first time. All accepted the challenge for different reasons, personal goals and records they wanted to achieve. For those who felt they weren’t ready for the full race yet, the team concept was a great option to choose the preferred discipline and participate as a team. This way each member experiences the same competitive atmosphere and shares the sense of achievement that this race offers.

Once the challenge and commitment was accepted there was no looking back, no giving up, it was a goal everyone one of us wanted to achieve and complete. The support and motivation from the Fitness First team was a key driver in looking forward, believing in ourselves and just approaching the day with confidence. When all training was done, all we could do was wait for the moment to act and perform we were all just impatient, at the end feeling we need to do this.

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

What motivated you to participate ?

A question we asked all our athletes with most answering wanting to step out of their comfort zone, challenge themselves and to do something they never did before. Others wanted to overcome an injury and prove they can still do it and that anything is possible. Some wanted to train for a reason to reach their personal goals and achieve record results.  For whatever the reason, there was the motivation to get these 50 Fitness First employees to do it.

Click here to watch the video of our COO and others about what motivated them to participate in Dubai International Triathlon as the Fittest Company in the Middle EastThe Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle EastPre-race moments

Every member of the team was getting ready, the swimmers warming up, the cyclists checking on their bikes racked from last night and the runners showing up to see their teams off. It was all about mixed feelings of excitement, butterflies in your stomach, waves of nausea and a dry, prickly mouth but we managed to get some great pictures through all these race-day anxieties.

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

The Race

The swim leg started at Jumeirah Beach Residence next to Hilton Double Tree hotel, athletes then cycled through Dubai Marina towards Motor City to the purpose built Al Qudra cycle track before finishing at the Dubai International Endurance City where the runners completed three laps of a technical course.

Despite months of training, nobody was prepared for what happened during the race.

A storm a few days prior to the event meant that athletes had to overcome tricky weather conditions which added to the challenge.  The windy weather made the race particularly difficult with high waves during the swim, a bike course with a challenging head wind for most of the. The run course wasn’t all smooth but with uphill roads, sandy pebbly tracks and windy sandy conditions toughing the run course not to mention the midday sun and heat being the final discipline.

All athletes were pushed to their physical and mental limits.

The Swim 1.9 KM

It was an amazing site to watch all the swimmers get prepared and jump in to start the swim leg.

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

The mental preparation at the race moment was the most important thing.The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

The drive to succeed and push ourselves to the limit was key in achieving the results we aimed for.The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

The Bike 90 KM

The cyclists arriving at the Dubai International Endurance City village after a strenuous 90 KM bike ride.

Still looking good after this long ride with a smile on our faceThe Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

Getting off the bike happy to have completed the courseThe Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

Bikes all racked up after the bike courseThe Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

The Run 21.1 KM

Setting off on the run courseThe Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

Running with no shoes just to get started…this is the Fitness First attitudeThe Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

Waving to the crowd is always a positive attitudeThe Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

Post-race moments

The mental race was harder than the physical race and this is what many confessed going through. There were thoughts and feelings of demotivation, defeat and the mind giving up before the body. The fight is to get past these thoughts and convince your brain that your body can do it.

One of the swimmers was overwhelmed with the adrenaline which gave him a slow start and taken in by the rush of all the swimmers felt drained then he told himself it’s now or never, I need to do this for the team and fought his way through the waves and managed to complete his part.

What made this all worth it was the final moment of reaching the finish line and getting that medal over your head with your hands up in the air saying…I did it!

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

The moment you put that medal in between your teeth and smile

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East
It’s all about teamwork and the team enjoying the final moments winning together

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

The Results

All of us are winners and finishers of this great race but a few deserve some extra bit of recognition.

Lisa Hancox for First Place in her category Females 35-39 with a total time of 5:29:37 hrs

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

NoPro Team for second place in the Mixed Teams with a total time of 4:32:51 hrs

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

For the Male 35-39 category we have two exceptional performers who did the full distance

Gareth  Hall with a total time of 5:12:07 ranking 12 out of 80

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

Dennis  Bierman with a total time of 6:25:00 ranking 57 out of 80

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

The Final Shot

Now we can proudly say WE ARE the Fittest Company in the Middle East! #FittestCompanyME

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle EastHana Feidi
Digital Content Manager
Fitness First Middle East

DIT-Hana Feidi

Our Team

Raising the bar – our COO’s dream triathlon!

posted by FitnessFirst Team September 28, 2014 0 comments

Dubai International Triathlon (DIT) endorsed by the Dubai Sports Council, is set to be region’s first ever ‘Half-Iron Distance’ Triathlon featuring a 1.9km swim followed by 90km bike and then a 21.1km run.

Any guesses who is going to be a part of it? Our much adored leader, COO George Flooks has been undergoing an extensive training regime for the past few months to get ready for the big day. For those unaware, George is a complete family man with two kids, and his routine begins at 4am with a 100kms bike ride in the dark before a professional start to the day. Difficult as it may seem but George has always kept himself going with his ‘commit until you achieve’ philosophy and has forever abided by this regime and habit. A fitness enthusiast to the core, you will have seen him working out in and around the Fitness First club’s in Dubai and outside in the beautiful UAE XXXX where he was regularly combining XFit training, bike rides, running and freestyle training. But this ‘Half-Iron Distance’ challenge called for change; in training, diet and body weight too.

George’s participation in the DIT demanded losing 12kilos of body fat before the event, as advised by his Nutritionist for a lean and light body required for this type of sport. Beginning June 2014, just a month into training and with a focussed nutritional plan of no sugar intake, very low carbs and high protein; he shed 6Kilos of body fat and gained 1Kilo muscle mass. He has been torching 3000 calories at every workout and also clocked a few milestones in the build-up with 30,000 MEPs (MYZONE Effort Points) along with 17 Ironman workouts every month since January 2014.

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